We wouldn’t normally share contrived wannabe-viral videos from breweries, especially big ones — someone, somewhere will be counting this, with glee, as ‘engagement’ — but as it’s a rare case of us getting a prediction right (item 5), we felt compelled.
What are they saying here? That the product is actually pretty inoffensive and more culturally significant than people give credit for (probably true) and that, more importantly, most of us bullshitters can’t really tell the difference anyway (maybe somewhat true).
We tasted two beers from our end of 2014 wish list last night: BrewDog’s collaboration with Weihenstephan, India Pale Weizen, and a recreation of the fabled Ballantine IPA.
Well, sort of. The latter was not the recent effort released by Pabst, which we’re still desperate to try, but an entirely different beer produced as a collaboration between two US breweries, Stone and Smuttynose. Will it soon be possible to have a bar selling nothing but Ballantine clones? Possibly.
If there’s a theme to this post, it’s old meets new, and the idea of sliding scales. You’ll see what we mean.
India Pale Weizen
6.2%, 330ml, from Red Elephant, Truro; £2.60 at BrewDog’s own online store
With apologies to the ‘all that matters is the taste’ crowd, what got us interested in this beer was the idea of the Scottish upstarts BrewDog collaborating with the centuries-old German brewery Weihenstephan. Our assumption was that they would meet halfway and create the perfect beer for a pair of fence-sitters like us.
Now, there’s no simple answer, and, even if the British beer fraternity did share a single opinion, we wouldn’t be qualified to state it. Nonetheless, here’s our attempt to summarise the various camps.
1. People stuck in the nineteen-seventies don’t know it exists
Back then, there really wasn’t much ‘characterful’ American beer — check out Michael Jackson’s World Guide to Beer for a valiant attempt to find some. As far as British beer enthusiasts were concerned, American beer was all ‘cold fizzy flavourless piss’. Some people, though they profess to be ‘into their beer’, still believe this is the case, if our experience of conversations at beer festivals is anything to go by.
2. Some people seem to dislike America, let alone American beer
They deny any American influence on British brewing in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary; they fail to see what American beer has to offer that can’t be found better elsewhere; and find the people in 5, below, extremely irritating.
3. Some simply prefer British beer (or beer from elsewhere)
There’s no malice in it — they just like what’s local and fresh. The beer from here is pretty decent and increasingly varied and interesting — why look abroad? Many ‘real ale’ enthusiasts are probably in this camp. British drinkers and brewers who had their ‘eyes opened’ by American beer before, say, 2007, when there were few examples of, e.g. strong, intensely aromatic British IPAs, have moved into this camp in recent years. (Brewers are sometimes motivated by a protectionist impulse: ‘Buy British!’)
4. Some feel very warm towards American craft beer
They’re interested in what’s going on in the US; will drink an interesting US beer in preference to a boring British one; generally like British beers in the US style.
5. Some think American craft beer and the attendant culture are where it’s at, and everything else is basically rubbish
The chaps at Brewdog have expressed this view, and are fairly open in their worship of Stone Brewing. We’ve spoken to other British brewers who were absolutely clear that their favourite beers and greatest inspirations are American. Many brew beers which seem to us to be obvious attempts to clone specific US brews. Some enthusiasts speak with almost religious fervour of beer enjoyed on trips to the US.
This is traditionally where people comment “I’m a 4!” and so on. Feel free to do so, or to suggest categories you think we’ve missed.
Over-thinking beer, pubs and the meaning of craft since 2007